Personal Story From Mike Holmstrom
San Jose, California
I’m a citizen that developed an interest in pipeline safety back in the early 1980’s. I had read a number of National Transportation Safety Board Pipeline Accident Reports, and became concerned that a lot of “connect the dots” and “reinvent the wheel” types of issues came up in pipeline accidents. Yet, pipeline accidents keep happening over the following years. I could see the smoke from the pipeline accident in San Bernardino in 1989 from where I worked at the time, an accident that killed 2 people and destroyed 11 homes. I could tell Local Government was both furious and helpless in changing pipeline safety rules.
As time went on, I tried to keep an ear to the ground about pipeline issues. I was sickened when I read the NTSB Report about the Texas Butane pipeline accident that killed 2 teens. I heard briefly about the Bellingham accident, then the Carlsbad accident the next year, killing 12, and made the National news. I asked myself “when are people going to say enough of this?”
One thing led to another as I did internet research on this subject, and I later went to meet others with pipeline safety concerns in Bellingham in 2005. While at the meeting, I talked a little with Kathy Dalen. It puts a different perspective on things when you meet someone very directly affected by an accident like this. I have 3 sons of my own, and I can see any of them going down to the creek and doing what Stephen and Wade and Liam were doing that day 10 years ago.
As homework after this meeting, I read the NTSB Report about the Bellingham accident. The all too familiar issues of “connect the dots” and “reinvent the wheel” types of problems found in earlier pipeline accidents continued. I even had a “the pipeline did WHAT?” with one event just moments before the accident. And, the accident could have been much worse if the gasoline had flowed further downstream. Casualties & destruction could have been much worse. Bellingham could have become like the nearly dead Centralia, PA if the coal seams along Whatcomm Creek had ignited.
Bellingham really was the Town that fought back. When all the other recent pipeline accidents were
added together into activism, the result was the message to the pipeline industry to push safety efforts beyond what was then required. “Safe enough” was no longer acceptable.